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Great Debacle . . . for Whom?

We alumni now know that a Steinberger v. Horowitz debate last November disintegrated into a series of charges and countercharges [“The Great Debacle?,” Winter 2006]. What we, who were not there, do not know is what arguments Peter Steinberger made in support of his position. I am familiar with and generally supportive of David Horowitz’s writings on academic bias and the irresponsible left. There is no doubt that academia is heavily tilted to the left, and there are plenty of leftist frauds on college and university faculties, e.g. Ward Churchill.

According to Reed magazine, Steinberger claims he was tough, not disrespectful. Yet in the story, Steinberger is said to have opened with a 40-minute(!) opening statement, and called Horowitz a “political pornographer” (respectful?), prone to “citing technical truths in order to tell substantive lies” (huh?).Come on, Steinberger must have made some substantive points in 40 minutes. What were they? How about letting him speak for himself in the next issue of Reed.

Albert Himoe ’59
Champaign, Illinois

steinberger and horowitz imageI was astonished to read that Reed invited David Horowitz to speak. Horowitz is not a provocative thinker with an interesting point of view. He is a well-funded force for the suppression of academic freedom.

He has operated a website which invited visitors to vote for the "most dangerous professor" in America from a list of names in his book The Professors. He recently said on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club that there are more than 50,000 “radical professors who want the terrorists to win.”

Living on money provided to him by hard-right foundations, Horowitz’s life work is to intimidate faculty members by forcing the firing or denial of tenure of named individuals whom he has targeted. His goal is the purging of left and liberal faculty from American universities. He is the author of a number of truly despicable books, including one with the repulsive title Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes, and another titled The Hate America Left (described on his website as “blow[ing] the lid off of the network of academics, lawyers, fundraisers, and professional agitators providing aid and comfort to the enemy”). He maintains a McCarthyite guilt-by-association website called, which insinuates nonexistent relationships between academics, terrorists, and communists such as Fidel Castro. His lies are too numerous to mention, but two serious ones, involving repeated misrepresentations of statements made by allegedly biased professors, are described at this website:

In the introduction to a collection of “reports” of campus opposition to the Iraq War that he titled “Campus Support for Terrorism,” Horowitz wrote: “It is our hope that these reports will alert others to the dangers this campus juggernaut represents. It is time for the academic world to take its head out of the sand and join the rest of the nation in its efforts to defend itself, or for the rest us to take steps to see that it does.”

Horowitz is an enemy of Reed and everything it stands for. He has every right to express his hateful views, but the college does itself harm when it provides a platform to those who would destroy it.

Joseph L. Ruby ’79
Silver Spring, Maryland

I have heard and read so much about the Steinberger v. Horowitz great debate, that I am now curious to learn what the principals actually said while standing at their podiums. Is any transcript or other record of the words actually spoken by the debaters available? This would allow those of us in the Reed community who missed the live action to decide for ourselves who was provocative, who was a pornographer, and who was telling substantive lies. I would like to avoid the obfuscation and understand the basic facts of who said what.

Lee Beaumont
Middletown, New Jersey

Editor’s note: A complete audio recording of the debate between Reed Dean of Faculty Peter Steinberger and author/lecturer David Horowitz can be found on the Winter 2006 magazine article; scroll to the bottom of the page to download the audio.

Good Work

We were most impressed by the article on Rachel Altmann ’88 and Tyler Morrison ’90 and their family’s battle with Fanconi anemia [“One in 360,000,” Winter 2006]. Not only was it an engaging profile of a remarkable family, it got the science about Fanconi anemia right. We found it particularly impressive that an institution of your comparatively small size produces as high-quality a publication as Reed magazine.

We would like to reprint and distribute the article to further our fundraising efforts here in Canada to support medical research into Fanconi anemia.

Lorne Shelson
President, Fanconi Canada

I just wanted to say what I’ve been thinking for many months, namely, that the Reed alumni magazine is of superior quality. I would defy any other college to do any better. I always find myself reading it from cover to cover. And though I graduated many moons ago, I always find the content of interest and the photos and graphics eye-catching.

Esther Hyatt Wender ’58
Hansville, Washington

Gail Kelly, a Bully in the Class?

I found the letters about anthropology professor Gail Kelly ’55 [Winter 2006] to be doubly interesting—first, as one of her former students, and second, as a quintessentially Reed exchange in its brutal honesty, but not malice, in seeking the truth.

I do see a larger issue here that is not unique to Reed, but is important at Reed: Some professors evolve into classroom bullies. One of the letters mentioned John Hancock; his colleague, Marsh Cronyn, also fit the mold. Professors have the upper hand in knowledge, power, position, and experience, and a few use this to bully students. Perhaps it is to prove their superiority; perhaps to deal with students who can be annoying, difficult, and even threatening in their abilities; or perhaps just because there is no check on this behavior and it is easy to fall into.

Some students accept this treatment as deserved, as a rite of passage, or as evidence of the professor’s awesome superiority. Much as a cult leader might abuse followers and be rewarded with loyalty and cash, some students even seem drawn to mistreatment. Personally, I think it is poor teaching, and as unacceptable in the classroom as it would be in any other setting. Making students cry, publicly humiliating and insulting students, and similar tactics serve no benefit, and I cringe to think of the modeling that the victims then take to their later teaching adventures and students.

Excellent teachers I have had at Reed and elsewhere (e.g., David Griffiths, Hugh Chrestensen, David French, and my biology professors) showed me that the best teaching comes with respect and good humor. I would suggest that it is a role of the institution to check abusive behavior that tries to pass as pedagogy. I’m delighted to hear of grateful students of Gail Kelly, but I wonder how many more students she might have reached and inspired if she herself had been held to a higher standard by Reed.

Frank Selker ’81
Portland, Oregon

I never took a class from Gail Kelly, but I remember her very well. We never exchanged a word, but I felt that we were friends. We would smile at each other on the paths between classes. She wore the greatest clothes I have ever seen. Do you remember her enormous blue-green sunglasses and her plastic raincoat that looked like a zebra? Whenever I see a real zebra, it surprises me that they are not black and white like her raincoat, but dark brown and beige.

Lisa Davidson ’71
Sierra Madre, California

After reading the Endpaper [November 2005] about Gail Kelly by Alex Golub ’95, I was somewhat surprised that such a controversial professor would have remained on the faculty for so many years. As a member of the Class of 1955, I have to admit that I only vaguely remember Gail Kelly, and this was probably because of name recognition only.

Although Professor Kelly stimulated Golub to make anthropology his career, one has to wonder how many students were so “humiliated” by her that their careers at Reed were altered in a very negative fashion. The professors that I remember favorably, at Reed or later in my four years at the University of Oregon Medical School, were those who could stimulate their students, but who treated the students with respect. Professor Kelly’s teaching techniques may well have been stimulating to a few, but probably not to the majority of her students.

John W. Thompson, M.D. ’55
Lake Oswego, Oregon

Help with Reed History

From the late 1950s through the 1960s, Reed history professor Dorothy Johansen was apparently writing a book-length biography of Cornelia Marvin Pierce. I have found a couple of references to this project in the unprocessed papers of Cornelia Marvin Pierce held in the Reed College Library Special Collections and Archives. Apparently the book was never published. I am interested in locating Reed students or others who might have worked with Johansen on this project, in an effort to discover what ultimately happened to this book. If any Reedies have information about this, I would be very grateful if they would contact me.

Thank you.

Cheryl Gunselman MALS ’00
Manuscripts Librarian
Washington State University
P.O. Box 645610
Pullman, Washington 99164-5610

We received this letter from Robert J. Palladino, former calligraphy instructor at Reed,
regarding the use of a new logotype on the cover of Reed magazine.

palladino letter

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